Conductive hearing loss, one of the two main types of hearing loss, is brought on by the problem in the middle ear – ear drum or ossicles. The other type is sensorineural hearing loss, which is due to the damage in the inner ear. In some cases, a person may experience both types, which is considered mixed hearing loss.
Hearing loss doesn’t simply affect one’s ability to hear. In fact, numerous studies have shown that the impact of hearing loss spans way beyond the ability to hear and can be detrimental to one’s mental and psychological health, as well as quality of life.
A recent study found that hearing loss is associated with brain atrophy. The researchers detected accelerating gray matter atrophy in auditory areas of the brain in patients with mild hearing loss. Declining hearing ability also meant an increase in the listening effort in seniors for more effective speech comprehension. The study found that participants with hearing loss had less brain activity when listening to complex sentences. They also had less gray matter in the auditory cortex, indicating accelerated atrophy associated with declining hearing ability in those areas of the brain responsible for sound processing.
Causes and symptoms of conductive hearing loss
There are several causes for conductive hearing loss, including the following:
- Ear wax buildup
- Ear infections
- Hole in the eardrum
- Glue ear – the middle ear begins to fill with fluid, which prevents the ear drum to move properly
- Inherited hearing loss
- Problem with the small bones in the ear
- Trauma to the head
- Ear surgery
Signs and symptoms related to conductive hearing loss include difficulty hearing others speak, symptoms related to an ear infection like pain, excess wax, tumor growth, and abnormal growth inside the ear leading to hearing loss.
Treatment options for conductive hearing loss
Treatment for conductive hearing loss depends on the cause. For example, if excess wax is the problem, it must be removed. If an ear infection is causing conductive hearing loss, a course of medicated treatment should help. In some cases, surgical intervention may be required to remove obstructing growths or to fix structural abnormalities of the ear.
Conductive hearing loss may be a result of a head trauma, in which case it’s the injury that should be addressed in the first place. Lastly, if conductive hearing loss is inherited or genetic, appropriate adjustments are needed to help you navigate through your daily living despite your condition.
Your doctor will be able to decide on the appropriate treatment method for your conductive hearing loss based on the underlying cause.
Tips to manage hearing loss as you age
Here are effective tips to help you prevent hearing loss, or if you are already living with it, slow down its progression and help you manage the condition.
Get your hearing checked
Every year, you probably get a physical examination from your doctor, and you may even get your vision checked as well. But many of us neglect another crucial test – a hearing test.
Just like getting other aspects of your health checked up, it’s important that you get your hearing checked as well in order to catch changes in your hearing early on and prevent further damage. Also, it allows your doctor to utilize early intervention methods to better maintain proper hearing. But if you don’t get your hearing checked regularly, you could be slipping under the radar until it’s simply too late.
The next time you start booking your yearly appointments, ensure you include a hearing test as well.
Protect your hearing
Maybe you attended too many loud concerts in your youth years. Or, maybe, your work environment was very loud and you neglected to wear protective hearing devices. Although you can’t go back in time to change the past, you can still protect your hearing now.
Be mindful of noisy settings and monitor your volume controls, be it your car radio or your TV, along with environmental and surrounding noises.
Speak up for those around you
Maybe you’re not the one with the fading hearing, but someone close to you is. You should voice your concerns to them about their hearing health and ensure they know the importance of maintaining proper hearing. Maybe, suggest that they have their hearing checked. Offering the proper information can allow them to take necessary steps to protect their fading hearing.
Be mindful of others with hearing loss
Once again, if you know others with hearing loss, be mindful and patient with them, as it probably is very frustrating for them to get by. Speak slower or louder when you’re in their presence to help them better understand you. Also, don’t cover your mouth when speaking, as it helps to read lips when a person is talking.
Recognize that your hearing does change
As mentioned, some changes in life are inevitable, and hearing loss is expected to some degree. As long as you get regular hearing check-ups and work to protect your hearing, the damage doesn’t have to be life-changing, and you can still maintain adequate hearing levels no matter your age.
Get better earphones
If you use earphones regularly and they aren’t proper, they could be causing you harm. If you don’t have noise-cancelling earphones, you could be cranking up the volume to compensate, but you should never listen to music through earphones more than 60 percent volume level unless you’re asking for hearing loss.
Find earphones or headsets that wrap around your ears, so they not only fit better but make it less likely that you hear the sounds around you.
Try cupping your ear
It may look silly, but making a cup shape with your hand around your ear and pushing your ear flap forward can increase hearing by up to 10 decibels. For some, the trick is to press the ear against the skull. It depends on your anatomy. Try either option, and see which works best for you.
Pay attention to medication side effects
Believe it or not, the medication aimed at making you feel better could be robbing you of your hearing. Pay close attention to side effects of medications because hearing loss may very well be one of them.
If you’re concerned about medication stealing your hearing, speak to your doctor about alternatives.
Take out the wax
Sometimes, hearing loss is simply caused by a buildup of wax and the easiest solution is to remove it. But this does not mean you can go ahead and jab a cotton swab in it – this can lead to further damage.
If you have wax buildup, put a few drops of hydrogen peroxide or olive oil in your ears for a few nights, and the wax will soften and come out easily. If wax is a real problem for you, speak to your doctor about wax removal and prevention methods.